Food banks, free schools meals, the cost of living and the Spring Statement – April 2022

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for contacting me about food banks, the cost of living and the Spring Statement.

Ensuring a nutritious and adequate food supply is a serious issue and it is vital everything possible is done to help people with the cost of living. Ministers are working hard to improve competition to help producers and retailers offer the best prices for food and regularly discuss all aspects of food security, including accessibility and through a range of other measures as set out below, it is taking steps to help people with the cost of living and for those not working, to support them back into work.

I am aware that people use food banks for many different reasons. The Government continues to provide a strong safety net through the welfare system for those who need extra support, while simultaneously working to support economic recovery and get people back into work as quickly as possible. As foodbanks are independent, charitable organisations, I understand that there are no official statistics on the number of foodbanks in the country. However, I know that the Government added questions on food security to the Family Resources Survey, to support a better understanding of the lived experiences of families.

I welcome that the Government has increased the value of Healthy Start food vouchers from £3.10 to £4.25, helping eligible low income households buy basic foods like milk, fruit, and vitamins. I know that the Government is also investing over £200 million a year from 2022 to continue the Holiday Activities and Food programme to provide enriching activities and healthy meals to children in all English local authorities. In addition, the provision of free school meals supports over 1.7 million pupils from the lowest income families. Schools Food Standards provide a legislative framework to ensure maintained schools provide children with healthy food and drink options, and to make sure that children get the energy and nutrition they need across the school day.

The Government is wholly committed to supporting those on low incomes, and continues to do so through many measures, including by increasing the living wage, and by spending over £111 billion on welfare support for people of working age in 2021/22. Further, throughout the pandemic, ministers have provided an unprecedented package of support to protect jobs and businesses and, for those in most in need, injected £352 billion into the welfare system and increased Universal Credit during the pandemic to provide immediate support.

As the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, the Government is helping people move into and progress in work as quickly as possible, based on clear evidence around the importance of employment, particularly where it is full-time, in substantially reducing the risks of poverty. Through the Plan for Jobs, ministers are investing over £33bn in measures to create, support and protect jobs.

The Plan for Jobs is an ambitious and comprehensive strategy designed to support people into work as we recover from the pandemic, it includes:

 

• Supporting long-term unemployed people into work through our £2.9 billion Restart scheme.

• Helping young people into work through the £2 billion Kickstart scheme, with 120,000 young people having already taken up Kickstart jobs.

• Doubling the number of Work Coaches to 27,000, giving jobseekers the personalised and intensive support they need to move back into work.

• Investing over £200 million in the Job Entry Targeted Support scheme, helping jobs seekers into work.

• Launching a Lifetime Skills Guarantee, currently being legislated for through the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, to ensure that  people can get the skills they need at every stage of their life.

 

The Government’s recent Spring Statement included a number of other measures to assist those who are on low incomes as well as wider measures to support people at this time. Those measures include the £250 energy rebate, the council tax discount of £150, a £144 million fund for those on lower incomes but who live in properties not eligible for the council tax discount, the extension of eligibility of the £140 Warm Homes Discount so that it includes more people, reforms to National Insurance which will see the overwhelming majority of taxpayers paying an average of £330 less from July, a fuel duty cut of 5p per litre, increases in the state pension and the retention of other pensioner benefits, the doubling of the Household Support Fund to £1 billion to help people on lower incomes as well as measures previously confirmed to increase the amount of Universal Credit by reducing the taper rate which represents a tax cut of £1,000 per annum for those on Universal Credit and, finally, a 6.6% increase to the national living wage for those on lower incomes.

The Chancellor’s decision to increase the National Insurance personal threshold to £12,570 will mean that people will not pay tax or National Insurance on the first £12,570 of their income.

Thank you once again for contacting me.

Sincerely,

Richard Fuller